Welcome to my Dog Days of Summer Dene Style blog. When I pick a subject to blog, I am careful to not portray victimhood, at the same time, I don’t exaggerate. After all, hardship is not synonymous with victimhood. I like things to be simple, straightforward, and balanced. If you read my blog to the end and feel entertained, or even learned something new then I am satisfied.
I grew up in a large Dene family, with humble beginnings. Growing up in a large family was a blessing. Our first house was a small log cabin that my father built from the logs in the surrounding area. This home was without electricity or plumbing, The woody fragrance coming from the burning logs in the stove and constant flurry of activity around comforted me. We slept four or five to a bed. We had three bedrooms. The boys and girls had their own room and Mama, and Baba had their room. Later we moved into an Indian affairs house in the 70’s.
I had ten brothers and five sisters. My older brothers were billeted in Edmonton for high school. My brothers enjoyed reading, so there were always plenty of books around in the house. I remember reading one of my brothers’ books John Stienbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. The Story was so interesting. As I read it. It unfolded much like a movie in my mind. Immediately my love affair with books was born. It was the gateway to escape from the chaos in the home.
My father, Isidore Derange (Baba), valued education although the only book both my parents could read was the Dene bible, which was written in Densuline syllabics . My mother, Therese (nee Adam) Mama, on the other hand, didn’t like us girls sitting around reading when there was cleaning that needed to be done. She was strict and if the cleaning was not done to her high standards, she would make sure it was redone. An interesting fact, dishes were never left unclean overnight. There was never a dull moment in the Deranger household and no room for boredom.
Although Baba was self-taught and trilingual – Dene, French, and some Cree, he was a man of few words unless he engaged in telling stories about his travels. He delighted in telling those stories and would keep us all transfixed for hours. He had the gift of making a simple hunting story become an amazing adventure. His storytelling spirit is a part of me and a force for me to blog and chronicle bits and pieces of my life.
Mama’s OCD around cleanliness kept my sisters constantly occupied and is a separate story on its own. Mama was the boss. She brought order to that which might have otherwise been chaos with a houseful of young children without electricity or other modern amenities.
In the dog days of summer, Baba would put the cooking wood stove outside so, when Mama baked bread, it would not make the house uncomfortably hot. There was no television; we created our own amusement. Music came from a small transistor radio which my brothers hooked up to a ground wire. Our entertainment was listening to 630 Ched and CBC. If you’re From Fort Chip, you will recognise Good Morning, Good morning It’s a West Montgomery morning here to wake you up, and get up on time! lol
My brothers were also big comic book readers and would trade comic books with the Cree children in our neighborhood. I, as the youngest girl, I liked to make paper doll clothes and cut them out.
Most afternoons Baba would take my brothers and me for walks down to the lake to get water, if we ran out of water before the delivery man, Leo came by. Baba used an apparatus he constructed out of wood that rested on his shoulders and allowed him to carry two large pails of water one on each side. While this was being done Mama and the girls prepared dinner.
Summer nights were fun. Our neighbor would have tea dances, with lively music emanating from their home, we were never invited because we were too young. The dancing fiddle music would last into the wee hours of the morning.
Our older sister Dora often would tell us ghost stories in the dark until we were sleepier instead of scared and fell asleep. The one constant in my childhood home was laughter. As I write, phantom sounds of laughter echo in my mind. Every day was a good day.
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